Wednesday, June 24, 2009

THE ACTOR AND THE HOUSEWIFE: A NOVEL by Shannon Hale

The Actor and the Housewife: A Novel The Actor and the Housewife: A Novel 
by Shannon Hale

June 9th 2009 by Bloomsbury USA
Hardcover, 352 pages
159691288X (isbn13: 9781596912885)

rating: 3 of 5 stars


"Becky was seven months pregnant when she met Felix Callahan."

As you can tell from the title and the jacket flap, Becky Jack is a 34-yr-old mother of (almost) four when she meets Felix Callahan (think Hugh Jackman, only British). By the time they've shared elevator and limo rides, both of them know they have a bond. Not romantic. Not sexual. Months and years later and millions of phone call-minutes later, they agree that they're more than best friends but less than spouses.

My first inclination was to give this book four stars. It's captivating and funny. I adore Shannon Hale (Austenland, Book of a Thousand Days.) And I am grateful she accomplished what I'd long wanted: to see When Harry Met Sally disproven. Men and women can be friends, and sometimes very close friends (without their relationships being a threat to their spouses.) The Actor and the Housewife is worth reading if only because everyone needs to rethink what constitutes "intimacy" and "friendship."

However, there's much of The Actor and the Housewife that left a poor aftertaste. "Housewife?" Could we fuel the stay-at-home v. working moms fight any more? Yes, I'm a stay-at-home mom with a part-time job and a career on hold. So perhaps it's only my own feathers that get ruffled at the implausibility that Becky bakes pies every week, keeps her house relatively clean, manages her four children, still adores have sex with her husband and manages to write - on the first try - a screenplay that's snatched up by a major Hollywood studio (the setting for her meeting with Felix.)

Becky's not only a housewife, she's a Mormon housewife, and there are definite religious overtones to the book. (See this recent article about three Mormon authors: Hale, Jessica Day George, and Mette Ivie Harrison). Don't misunderstand: Hale doesn't preach. (Let's be clear about that! Hale doesn't preach.)

What she does do, however, is base the friendship of Felix and Becky on Becky's belief that "God meant it to happen." The reader has to believe Becky, because there's nothing else to connect these two. We never hear about a shared love of books or movies; they're two entirely different people, religiously. politically and socioeconomically. But if the reader is not a Mormon, or a person who believes in God (see Mormons & Christianity), or who believes God "works" in the way Becky does, then the reader is left wondering....what the heck holds these two together?

Check this book out at the library, read it at the beach, laugh your ass off. Then return it and remember - it's only a story.

    Steph Su and Jena give The Actor & The Housewife 5 Stars, Melissa liked it, too.

5 comments:

  1. I think it would be interesting to see how Ms. Hale deals with the delicate balance of their relationship. I'm looking forward to it!

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  2. Hmm, interesting, it's kinda like an anti-romance. The British Hugh Jackman might just be enough to get me to pick it up though.

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  3. Sounds like a good read, although I generally prefer to avoid fiction books with overt religious elements. Even when the author isn't proselytizing!

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  4. This book sounds really good. I think I might have to take your advice and check it out from another library and relax and read it.

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  5. Even if you are a Mormon, and do believe in God, you're still left wondering why Felix and Becky are friends. I think that's the biggest flaw in the book: there's no reason for them to be friends. They just are. Then again, it's a bit of a fanatsy.

    And Shannon Hale can do no wrong. (More right and less right, certainly. But no wrong.)

    Good review.

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